The third of eight brothers, Don Álvaro was born in Madrid on 11 March 1914. After high school, he enrolled in Ingengineering and began his studies as a Public Works Assistant, which allowed him to start working early. He was twenty when he met St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei. In 1935 he joined the Opera with such an unconditional "yes" that he quickly became one of the founder's most trusted supporters.
In 1944 he was ordained a priest. Shortly afterwards he moved with St. Josemaría to Rome, where he also held various positions entrusted to him by the Holy See, especially during the Second Vatican Council. On the founder's death in 1975, he was unanimously elected as his first successor, and in 1982, when Opus Dei was erected a personal prelature, he was named prelate.. In 1991 he received from the Pope Giovanni Paul II the episcopal ordination and died in Rome on March 23, 1994. His body rests in Rome, in the crypt of the prelatic Church of Santa Maria della Pace.
The Holy See has attributed to the intercession of don Álvaro the complete recovery of the Chilean boy José Ignacio Ureta Wilson, who, a few days after his birth, suffered a cardiac arrest lasting more than half an hour and a serious haemorrhage.
"His parents – said Mons. Flavio Capucci, postulator of the cause of beatification – they prayed with great faith through the intercession of Mons. Álvaro del Portillo and when the doctors thought that the newborn had died, without any further treatment and in a totally unexpected way, his heart started beating again, until it reached 130 beats per minute". Despite the seriousness of the clinical picture, ten years later José Ignacio lives a normal life. The miraculous healing took place on August 2, 2003.
«The Adventure of José Ignacio – tell the parents of the child – it represented a process of conversion and of deep drawing near to God. In those moments we discovered our vocation to Opus Dei. We hope that don Álvaro will continue to intercede for us in the future, as he has done until now ». On January 21, 2014, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the Decree of July 5, 2013 regarding the miracle that occurred on August 2, 2003.
Some favors received from people all over the world through the intercession of don Álvaro
- Gloria, my sister-in-law, was eight months pregnant with her fifth child when she was diagnosed with a worrying abnormality that doctors call 'placenta previa'. A few days later she bled and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. With an emergency caesarean section, little Amanda came into the world that she weighed less than two kilos, but at least they had saved her life. Gloria, for her part, continued to lose blood and her situation was becoming more desperate by the hour. When this news spread among friends and relatives, we all decided to recommend Gloria's recovery to don Álvaro. Two days after her hospitalization, when I went to see her, I recited the prayer of her little image with her mother and with two other sisters-in-law of hers. By then Gloria had received 51 units of blood and her kidneys were on the verge of failing. A few minutes earlier she had been administered the union of the sick: it seemed that there was nothing more to be done. At eight in the morning of the next day her husband called me to tell me, euphoric, that during the night Gloria's vital constants had returned to normal. In the hospital there was talk of a miracle because, with a clinical picture like that of the day before, the chances of survival were less than 1%. The rehabilitation was long, but satisfying. The power of the sacrament of anointing of the sick and of Don Alvaro's intercession seems clear to me. PMH (United States)
- My parents didn't get along for a few years. As they had once been received by don Álvaro, I suggested to my mother that they ask him to change the situation. I too began to pray. After some time my mother called me to tell me that a miracle had happened: my father had begun to be very affectionate with her. Even my brothers and sisters are amazed at the change that has taken place in our parents. I am very grateful to Archbishop Álvaro del Portillo for his effective help. AP (France)
They said about him
- Giovanni Paul II, "Good and faithful servant": "On learning of the sad news of the sudden passing of Archbishop Álvaro del Portillo, Prelate of Opus Dei, I offer you and the members of the entire Prelature my deepest condolences, as I recall with a heart grateful to the Lord the zealous life priestly and episcopal ministry of the deceased, the example of fortitude and trust in Divine Providence which he constantly offered, as well as his fidelity to the See of Peter and his generous ecclesial service as a close collaborator and worthy successor of Saint Josemaría Escrivá (then blessed), I raise fervent prayers of suffrage to the Lord so that he may welcome this good and faithful servant of his into eternal joy, and I send a special Apostolic Blessing as a comfort to all who have benefited from his pastoral dedication and his chosen gifts of mind and heart". (Telegram sent to Archbishop Javier Echevarría)
- Archbishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei from 1994 to 2016, "He never considered honors or recognitions for himself": «I met Monsignor Álvaro del Portillo at the end of the 40s, and I have been close to him since my move to Rome in 1950. This long proximity - more than forty years -, which meant that I was with him in moments and very different situations, allowed me to fully understand the temper of his soul: his great intelligence, his vast culture, his singocular ability to work, his serenity of mind and what matters most, the depth of his faith and how intimate and rich his relationship with God was. I first of all consider it a duty of justice to bear witness to the fact that Mons. Álvaro del Portillo he never considered honors or recognition for himself. He didn't even seek personal success or opportunities to show off. He had a single ambition: to be a good son of God and a faithful servant of the Church, according to the spirit received from Saint Josemaría and following his example." (In memoriam, “Making the Truth Lovable”)
- Joaquín Navarro Valls, "He had a great mood and an optimistic character": «He was a person with two special characteristics: a great good mood and an optimistic and positive character. He represented the most faithful continuity to the founder of Opus Dei. Behind him he left an indelible mark, typical of men of God who silently carry out a mission for the good of souls". (Mundo Cristiano, April 1994, special issue “In morte di monsignor Álvaro del Portillo”).